31 December 2022

A fresh look at making New Year’s resolutions work…

Another year is beginning… We could just go with the flow, take life as it is, and be ourselves. 
But then, feeling completely at ease with ourselves, and with the way our lives are unfolding, may be a step or two away. There may well be things we would like to be different… 
Time for another New Year’s resolution? If so, how to make it stick? 
This week, a new approach that really does work, but first 

       Thought for the day
Taking life seriously does not mean spending our whole life meditating 
As if we were living in the Himalaya Mountains or in the old days in Tibet. 
In the modern world, we have to work to earn our living,
But we should not get entangled in a nine-to-five existence, 
Where we live without any view of the deeper meaning of life.
Our task is to strike a balance, 
To find a middle way, 
To learn not to overextend ourselves 
With extraneous activities and preoccupations, 
But to simplify our lives more and more. 
The key to finding a happy balance in modern life is simplicity.
                     Sogyal Rinpoche
The wonderful thing about New Year’s resolutions is they always seem so sound, so logical. 
This year I will meditate more. This year I will drink less, exercise more, be kinder, more tolerant, more aware, more forgiving… all so sound, so logical; how could we not take up on any of that? Yet for many, a week or two into January, not only has the change not been accomplished, it is probably even forgotten!
So… how to actually make personal change? How to work with our mind? 
Having helped people with this for decades, many readers will probably be familiar with the Three Principles of Positive Thinking. These Principles have helped many people to set goals, follow through and accomplish them. Changing habits, changing environments, changing ways of relating – these 3 steps really do work. But in this post, a new take; another way of making personal change. 
(You can check out the Three Principles in The Mind that Changes Everything or You Can Conquer Cancer).
The fresh approach? 
Answer these 5 questions: What?, Why?, How?, When?, and How much?
1. What - Set Your Goal. Three important points:
i) Goals can come to us courtesy of whims, emotions, rational thought, contrariness, contemplation – or because somebody tells us what to do! 
Best be clear where your goals are coming from, and make a deliberate choice. 
Experience is pretty clear here; the best goals come from combining the use of the intellect and contemplation. Details are in The Mind that Changes Everything.
ii) A goal can be focussed upon an outcome or an action. Both are valid, but quite different. 
An outcome might be catching a plane overseas and as such is quite time dependant and uncompromising. The actions required to purchase the ticket and get on the plane may change over time and benefit from a flexible approach, but the time of departure is fixed. 
Many goals are like that; the outcome is fixed, the actions required to accomplish the outcome may well need to change to adapt to evolving circumstances and as such, are best to be flexible. Here, the goal is uncompromising, the actions are flexible. 
An action might be to meditate daily – no wriggle room there – you either do it or you do not. You may relapse and need to recommit, but basically, the aim is to be doing the action as intended. Here, the goal is the action and as such it is inflexible.
iii) Aim to reduce your goal to a few words, and express it as an affirmation – in the first person, present tense, as if it has already happened. And in a way that is joyful!
Example? Not I hope to meditate daily and with a bit of luck maybe I will some time off in the future, but it seems a bit unlikely, I have tried it before and it was pretty difficult… ; rather I really enjoy meditating daily, now. The mind responds to hearing this - first person, present tense, as if it has already happened, not the previous vague waffle.

2. Why?
Why is it time for this change? 
Example? Maybe you have been meditating off and on… Very common… But maybe it is becoming even clearer: when I do meditate everything seems easier, everything seems to work out better. Funny that… 
Maybe you do need to heal something? Maybe you do aspire to becoming a better person? Maybe it is time to get to know yourself a little more deeply?
The stronger the Why, the easier the How.

3. How?
What will it take to accomplish this goal? 
What do I need to do? 
Example? Meditating daily. 
If you have good personal discipline, you probably do not need to read on; just do it. 
However, many I have helped over the years did have good, clear goals, and yet they struggled to accomplish them. 
If this is you, you need to plan.
Consider supports like establishing a routine, setting up a good practice space, starting small and building, providing yourself with rewards once landmarks are passed, seeking contact with teachers and like-minded company you can learn from, share your goals and your progress with, consider writing a journal, record your practice and share your results with those close to you. What does it take?

4. When?
Some goals have a definite timing to them, like catching a plane; others are more flexible.
Unless the goal is time dependant – like the plane trip – it is preferable to keep the time for accomplishment open. This is not a cop out; some goals might take longer than planned, others be accomplished quicker. It works to keep the time open where possible.

5. How much?
This may well be the most important step to get clear. Is this goal, this new resolution, a matter of life and death? Will you do absolutely everything possible to accomplish this goal? Or is it a matter a little importance? If it works out, all to the good; but if not, who cares???
This question when answered brings the previous 4 together into an intention – that motivating force that can be casual or unstoppable depending upon how much you want it. 
I remember in my sporting days, training each day was a non-negotiable; it was what I did every day and all else needed to fit in around that. When I was really ill back in the 70’s, healing was my priority and all else needed to fit in around that.
When the goal is clear and the intention is strong, amazing things happen. “Miracles” happen. 

May 2023 be a year of personal miracles for you and all you care for and about…
Allevi8 App – free meditation practice app with options for online group teaching/mentoring
Digital downloads – Mind training

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